pic: Championship Cities Driving Distances



Map of average driving distances for North American teams to possible FIRST Championship locations.


Based on the maps lbl1371 and Skyehawk posted a while ago, I attempted to make a map showing the “best” city to host FIRST Championship using 2018 team data. I plotted the 100 most populus US cities (well 99, excluding Honolulu), and calculated the average driving time for all North American teams to that city. According to my calculations, the best city is a tie between Chocago, IL and Fort Wayne, IN with a average drive times of 14.18 hrs. The worst city (other than Honolulu, HI and Anchorage, AK), is San Fransico, CA at 32.89 hrs. The full list is at the bottom of the post. You can also find driving distance maps for each city here. The code and raw data used to gather/generate these data and graphs can be found here for anyone interested.

Some FAQs:

How did you calculate driving times for each team?
I used the OSRM API to calculate the routes. You input the the starting and ending coordinates and some settings, and it returns driving directions, waypoint coordinates, and the time and distance it takes.

Did you really calculate driving directions for every team-city combination?
Well no, that would be 3617*100 = 361,700 API calls! What I did was calculate the closest county center (for US teams) or major city (for Canada/Mexico teams), and then count how many teams are in each county/city. I only calculated the drive times for counties/cities with teams, about 890 of them (quartering the number of API calls). To calculate the average driving time for each Championship city, I simply took a weighted average of the drive times for each county/city, weighted by the number of teams in that county/city.

How long did this take to calculate?
About 27 hours. Yes, really.

But [instert city here] doesn’t have a(n) [international airport, large convention center, suitable stadium, etc.]
This map only deals with the best cities as far as driving distances are concerned. I don’t know much about most of the cities on the list, and can’t comment on the viability of any of them for actually holding a Championship.

Where did you get the locations of all of the teams?
The team locations were taken from FIRSTmap, which as I understand calculated them from locations in TBA. I take no responsibility for the accuracy of this data.

Doesn’t this not matter in the age of 2-Champs?
Don’t remind me. The actual answer is no, it still does have some bearing. FIRST could decide to hold multiple champs back-to-back in the same city to save on transoprtation and set-up costs. In that case, this would be important information.

How can you have Frequently Asked Questions if you’ve never shown this to anyone before?

Here’s the raw data shown in the graph:

**City			AvgTime**
FortWayne		14.18
Chicago			14.18
Indianapolis		14.20
Toledo			14.29
Cincinnati		14.52
Columbus		14.59
StLouis			14.69
Detroit			14.72
Louisville		14.83
Cleveland		14.84
Milwaukee		14.96
Lexington		14.98
DesMoines		15.18
Madison			15.25
Nashville		15.47
Pittsburgh		15.55
KansasCity		15.64
Omaha			16.01
Memphis			16.23
Lincoln			16.26
Buffalo			16.29
SaintPaul		16.56
Minneapolis		16.67
Tulsa			16.78
Wichita			17.05
Atlanta			17.30
WinstonSalem		17.31
Washington		17.34
Baltimore		17.40
OklahomaCity		17.49
Greensboro		17.50
Charlotte		17.59
Richmond		17.96
Durham			17.99
Philadelphia		18.01
Raleigh			18.28
Newark			18.35
JerseyCity		18.47
Garland			18.78
Dallas			18.78
Plano			18.80
NewYork			18.86
Irving			18.92
FortWorth		19.04
Arlington		19.05
Norfolk			19.07
Chesapeake		19.29
VirginiaBeach		19.38
BatonRouge		19.48
NewOrleans		19.48
Aurora			19.78
Denver			19.81
ColoradoSprings		20.23
Jacksonville		20.49
Lubbock			20.54
Houston			20.70
Austin			20.80
Boston			20.83
SanAntonio		21.61
Albuquerque		22.00
Orlando			22.40
Tampa			22.66
StPetersburg		22.98
CorpusChristi		23.27
Laredo			23.61
ElPaso			23.62
Miami			25.39
Hialeah			25.40
Tucson			26.21
Mesa			26.34
Chandler		26.41
Scottsdale		26.43
Gilbert			26.45
Phoenix			26.53
Glendale		26.55
NorthLasVegas		26.68
LasVegas		26.80
Henderson		26.82
Boise			27.29
Riverside		29.14
Anaheim			29.49
Reno			29.62
Irvine			29.66
SantaAna		29.69
LongBeach		29.81
Bakersfield		29.96
LosAngeles		29.99
SanDiego		29.99
ChulaVista		30.12
Sacramento		30.86
Stockton		31.26
Fresno			31.32
Oakland			31.80
SanJose			32.05
Fremont			32.10
Seattle			32.38
Portland		32.43
SanFrancisco		32.89
Anchorage		68.78


Chicago would be an excellent location for a world championship. I’m surprised it hasn’t come up more often before.

There are two major international airports in town, with frequent rapid transit service between either of them and downtown.

McCormick Place, while surely expensive to rent out, is an absolutely massive convention center with interconnected buildings, potential to seat tens of thousands. It is a couple of blocks from two major rapid transit lines (and surely for a big event like Champs shuttle buses to them could be an option), plus there is a Metra line that stops literally within the venue (less frequent service / more expensive).

You could have Einstein in the same venue; no shuttling everyone miles away for three matches. If you absolutely had to have Einstein in a sports stadium instead of a conference center that has seating for tens of thousands, Soldier Field isn’t very far away at all - closer than Ford Field is to Cobo.


Neat. Now tell me which two cities should be chosen (as well as a mapping from team to Championship) in order to minimize average travel distance assuming a 50/50 split.

This one might take more than 27 hours :slight_smile:


Indianapolis and Indianapolis.

With 26 hours and 58 minutes to spare.


I could get behind Chicago. Only a 6 hour drive for me, much better than paying for plane tickets like I do now!


FIRST’s roots are as deeply intertwined with Illinois and Indiana as they are with New England. I would love to go to champs in either Chicago or Indy. It’s a crime Indy has been knowingly passed over.


I think honestly the biggest issue with McCormick Place is the hotels. Frankly, there’s just not enough right there in the convention center (though there’s certainly more being built all the time), and the immediate area isn’t too terrible, but I just don’t think there’s enough centrally located hotels to make it worth while. Also, for a half champ, McCormick Place is far too large. Even if you stuffed all the programs under that roof, expanded the qualifications more, there is still just frankly, too much space to be used.

Another issue is where you would host Einstein. The attached Wintrust arena isn’t large enough, and I don’t think you could host it inside the convention center itself. There’s Soldier Field somewhat nearby, but that’s open air. The amount of covered fields in Chicago big enough to host the final closing ceremony is surprisingly lackluster, so much so that I’m yet to find a suitable venue that’s large enough.


I think between the Loop hotels (for the spendy teams), abundant hotels by the airports, and the locations closest to the venue, there’s a lot to go around. The Blue and Orange Lines are certainly reliable enough to bring teams from the airport hotels into the city without worrying about getting stuck in traffic. Admittedly I haven’t put in the hours for thorough research.

Also, for a half champ, McCormick Place is far too large. Even if you stuffed all the programs under that roof, expanded the qualifications more, there is still just frankly, too much space to be used.

Another issue is where you would host Einstein. The attached Wintrust arena isn’t large enough, and I don’t think you could host it inside the convention center itself. There’s Soldier Field somewhat nearby, but that’s open air. The amount of covered fields in Chicago big enough to host the final closing ceremony is surprisingly lackluster, so much so that I’m yet to find a suitable venue that’s large enough.

I don’t think Wintrust is necessarily too small (at least for a half-champ). But one idea would be to use one of the larger ballrooms with bleachers as your Einstein-type venue. Not a traditional stadium per se, but there’s enough room for tens of thousands of people absolutely, and that kind of thing has been done in the venue before if I understand correctly.

I’m sure smarter people than me have put thought into Chicago and ruled it out for good reasons like the ones you’ve mentioned, but I thought it was worth discussing.


Indy ran a strong second to St. Louis back in '09. Public transportation was one of the deciding factors then. Venue comparison was another – STL would not win on that basis now. There will be a similar long-term effect anywhere FIRST decides to go because venues age and have to be upgraded or replaced – and major sports franchises have nearly all of the influence on that.

Back to the OP – I like looking at these maps; however, driving distance may not be the right metric for CMP or 1/2 CMPs or Super Regionals, as it must be for siting regionals or districts. Many participants fly to the big show.


As a matter of fact, I can do it in about 4 hours.

There are 4950 combinations of 99 possible Championship cities. That’s (99 nCr 2) = 4851 plus 99 more for holding both Championships in the same location.

For each pair, I sorted the list of counties/cities by the difference between the driving time to each Championship city. I split the list at the half point, producing two lists, each with the driving times for about half the teams to their closer Championship. The average driving time to the Championship pair is then the sum of both lists divided by the total number of teams. (code here)

The results were too long to reasonably embed in this post, so you can find them here. The best pair is Cleveland, OH and Oklahoma City, OK at 11.09 hrs. Detroit/Houston is in the 8th percentile (#380) at 12.44 hrs.

You’re probably right. Unfortunately, I can’t reasonably predict what % of teams will fly at a given driving time, or the duration/price of flights between airports. Honestly, that’s too big of a rabbit hole for me to jump into. Meanwhile, a long driving time is probably an okay stand-in for having to fly to your Championship.


For a pair of cities with (known acceptable) venues

Indianapolis and Denver is a very strong combo.

As is Indianapolis and Las Vegas (I have not factored in air-fare)


Although I like your idea, for a lot of teams, public transportation is iffy at best, for our team, at least, it is too much of a risk (and a hassle) to get a large group of students on public transport, with other teams, in a large, unknown city where anything could happen.

Also I would kill to only have to drive an hour for champs :smiley:


The arenas the Blackhawks and Bulls (if they aren’t the same one) play in should have plenty of seating, and would allow everyone to have a good view of the field. I think there would even be enough space to hold the pits and 2 fields, if they wanted to do all of Einstein in there.


The United Center would be great. However, the NHL and NBA would both be in the postseason making the venue (nearly) impossible to book


Did you calculate average driving time (or some other metric that accounts for team distribution) for these city pairs? As far as I can see, these maps don’t take that into account. I’m interested in seeing how well your data matches mine.

Also, if I’m not mistaken, you currently have teams always going to their closer Championship regardless of the distribution that creates. So for Indianapolis and Las Vegas there are more than 3x as many teams going to Indy than Vegas. Obviously in the real world that’s not feasible. I wonder how your numbers would change if you forced the division to be about equal.


Man. Rabbit hole is the nicest thing I’ve been called on here lately.

Realistically, I bet there’s some sort of number where “no longer practical to dri e” comes in. Gut feel-

0-50 miles no hotel needed
50-600 miles driving
600+ flying

Ideally you’d want to minimize the number of people flying as it’s likely the highest cost (and highest carbon foot print? Idk. Crap looks like I have another metric to add) and maximize people who don’t need a hotel. If I were doing this I’d add some sort of weighting’s on these and compute that way.

Keep up the good work. It’s all purely academic because we don’t have available the schedules for the venues but it’s still a fun experiment. :slight_smile:


This makes my heart happy. There’s a fairly strong case to be made for Cleveland. It’s a far cry from when our totally official tourist videos were created. For starters, there are three major sportsball stadiums all within a <2-mile radius, two of them literally right next to each other (with a plaza in the middle that can be sectioned off from traffic). One of those, the Q Arena (basketball/hockey/concerts), is undergoing a multi-million dollar renovation as we speak.

Hotels were built up specifically to support the RNC, so there’s a lot of options in downtown itself, with plenty more within a 10-15 minute drive (which is way better now that they’ve redone a lot of the highways leading in to the city). There are a lot of things to do in downtown as well: The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, an interactive science museum, children’s museum, a theater district, and much more. Food is pretty affordable, and there are a ton of great options.

The one downside I can think of is that CLE isn’t an international destination airport anymore for most countries. However, it’s only a 40-minute jump from ORD/MDW, and a pretty short flight from DTW as well.

We hosted the RNC with ~50k visitors successfully, and a lot of infrastructure was built up specifically for this event. We’ve also nabbed the 2019 MLB All-Star Game, which historically brings at least 100k people, if not more.


Don’t forget about the metro in Cleveland. I haven’t used it since I was in college, and it wasn’t the nicest thing… but it was reliable and ran on time. I haven’t been back to Cleveland since graduation, it would be nice to get back and make a short visit back to Case sometime :slight_smile:


Ok so this wasn’t too hard if I understand you correctly. I basically just took the same program from before, but instead of just using the driving time I created a function based on the time, called the Championships pair score. Golf rules apply; the lowest score is the “best” city pair. (code here) This score is calculated as follows:

If driving time is over 15 hrs -> score = 22 + (time-15)/4
If driving time is under 15 hrs -> score = time
If driving time is more than 1 hr -> add 3 points to score

This gives a flat rate penalty for having to fly, plus an increasing penalty as flight length increases. And also a flat rate penalty for having to stay in a hotel (or you can think of it as a reward for not having to stay in a hotel). The numbers here were arbitrarily chosen; there’s no reason these numbers are any more correct than anyone else’s best guess.

The results can be found here. Now the best city pair is Buffalo, NY and Kansas City, MO with a 14.69 score. Detroit/Houston is now in the 9th percentile (#392) with a 16.75 score. For the record, the best single city using this weighted ranking system is Indianapolis, IN at 17.06, which is in the 11th percentile.